Dirk Nowitzki made the last 9 points of the game for Dallas including the game winner, and that may wind up being the story of the historically great game 2 comeback by Dallas. But that’s just the non-dairy whipped topping on the sundae. The meat and potatoes of the Heat’s collapse had everything to do with the pick and roll at both ends.
Dallas ran staggered screen and roll plays again and again, getting Terry free of LeBron James (What did I say in my podcast? Too big to slip past screens). The second screener was usually Dirk, and when Dirk’s man rotated onto Terry, while LeBron was still struggling to catch Jet, guess who wound up open? Yep. Diggler. And what does the Diggler do? He puts it directly in the hole. The Heat need to figure out how to get the defender on the first screen onto Dirk, the second screen onto Terry, and let LeBron drop back into a centerfield position like a hyperathletic Larry Bird. It’ll take a lot of coordination and leave Marion open at 20 feet, but it’s better than letting Dirk shoot at 14 feet.
On offense for the last handful of possessions, the Heat tried to run high pick and rolls for LeBron and Wade. Dallas made a concerted effort to trap the ball-handler and push him back the other way, even abandoning some of the Miami role players. Wade and LeBron rarely passed, and when they did they got the ball bounced right back to them by teammates who looked a little shy of the spotlight (Haslem). The end result was a series of step back three pointers that missed. Interestingly they made those shots in their win. Easy fix for a team with more experience. Not sure if the Heat have the patience and confidence to work off the ball to defeat that stifling D.
Honestly I’m turning a little in my prediction. I thought the talent would be too much for Dallas to overcome, but in these two games Dallas has played excellent defense. Even though James and Wade shot very well, most of their makes came on breakout dunks in transition and uncontested drives down the lane. Miami is not getting great looks in the half court. Not that Dallas is doing a lot better on offense, but it seemed that they made better adjustments at the end of this game. I wonder if Rick Carlisle isn’t a more flexible coach and the veteran Maverick lineup isn’t more adaptable to difficult defense. The Heat have players who CAN do more things, but it took them a long time in the regular season to put it together. I think Miami will figure out a way to beat the Mavs’ defense that isn’t completely reliant on Dallas turning the ball over every other possession, but if they don’t, their in trouble.
Another note – Game 1 rebounds: +10 Miami. Game 2 rebounds: +11 Dallas. When neither team shoots great, that’s the difference. Wade and James were getting out on the break successfully early, but when those opportunities dried up, they needed to attack the backboards like they did in game 1.